Today’s Gratitude List

DChitwoodGratitude

Today I am grateful for:

  • Snow.  Let me clarify this since I live on the East coast of the U.S.  I am grateful for new snow that falls in big pretty flakes at night & sparkles in the moonlight when I am home in my pajamas and don’t have to drive anywhere.  I am grateful for snow shovelers– like the amazing kid whom I met two days ago (see the next item on my list)– who become part of my village when they knock on the door and offer to take care of our home’s big corner sidewalks.  And I am grateful for all the snow-plowers, road-salters & transportation… um… “specialists” let’s call them, who help us get “back to the schedule.”
  • I am grateful for Adam, who helped to clear out the driveway & shared a cup of hot cocoa.  Adam, a neighborhood kid, knocked on the door & introduced himself.  We negotiated a price, he went to work.  The next day he was back to help again.  He mentioned he also babysits.  When I asked “Do you know anything about autism?” he replied, “I’ve got two disabilities myself” and went on to share some of his story.  Turns out his mom is one of my favorite special needs advocates, a woman with an amazing outlook on life who has encouraged me through some of my toughest challenges.  The world became smaller– and much more “walkable” — yesterday because of that encounter.  Thank you Adam!
  • I am grateful for the bit of flexibility my son is able to muster on days when his entire schedule is thrown off by closed schools, rearranged routines & upside-down family situations.
  • And last but not least, I am grateful for my new favorite piece of jewelry:  A homemade paperclip necklace that Hannah presented to me two days ago.  I bet if I made a whole line of these things, I could fund her college education.  But for now, I’m the proud owner of the one and only piece in this original “Paperclip Jewelry” collection.

paperclip necklace

What are you grateful for today?  Write it down & share it!

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Today’s Gratitude List

gratitude2-vi

Today I am grateful for:

  • Music.  All kinds.  Yesterday was one of the  most productive days I’ve had so far in 2011, mainly because I bounced through all my work listening to awesome upbeat tunes.  Alex’s teachers are trying to include more music in his school day, so he’s listening to everything and I mean *everything*!  It’s classical one day, country the next.  Top 40 in the morning, jazz at night.  I’ve even discovered some radio stations I hadn’t known existed!  Yes, I do know internet radio, just don’t have the proper speakers hooked up yet to blast it through the house 🙂
  • Protein.  I learned to make omelets, not just eggs with a bunch of stuff mixed in.  (Which is what I used to make until I did a little “joy of cooking” and “silver palate” cookbook research.)  Yum.  Nourishing food for the body, higher serotonin for the psyche.  Yay protein!!
  • Different perspectives.  Ohmigosh, I do love blogging and reading other people’s stories.  I am fascinated by people and there is so much amazing writing and sharing going on out there in cyberspace.  Just this morning I think I’ve fallen in love with three people I don’t even know!  Okay, maybe not fallen in *love* love, lol.  But you get my drift right?  I am so grateful for beautiful, unique people who share their thoughts on the world with others
  • 

What are you grateful for?  Write it down & share it!

An experiment in interactive posting…

peace hands

Okay, people, listen up.  This one is an * INTERACTIVE POST *  so look alive out there.  WordPress keeps posing these cool questions for the Post-a-Week challenge.  My email inbox has been flooded with all sorts of writing topics that are taking me on more mental tangents than I’m usually allowed.  (To paraphrase a good friend of mine:  “I do not have attention deficit disor– hey look!!  Another blog about art!”)

In order to keep myself focused at work, being the clever little problem-solver I am, I am turning this post over to YOU.  I’ll answer the question first.  Then you all answer in the comments.  If you’re too shy to comment yourself, no worries.  Just email me at autismhomerescue@gmail.com and I’ll add your answer anonymously. 

Are you all ready??  REALLY?  Okay then.  LET’S GO! 

What’s the single most important thing you accomplished in 2010?   And how do you plan to top it in 2011?

The single most important thing I accomplished in 2010 was definitely learning to stay in the moment, especially with my kids.  As far as topping that, I don’t think I could.  But I would like to run my first 5K race in 2011.  Does that count?

Your turn.  🙂

rosie the riveter

Hannah-isms

Han and momIt has come to my attention that lately I’ve been making a lot of people cry.  While gathering throngs of people around my blog who are weeping and passing tissues can be kinda fun (in a sadistic helping-professional way of course  **insert head tilt, supportive smile & sugary sweet nod here**  hehe), I thought perhaps I should lighten things up a bit.

Which brings me to the question, “What’s so funny anyway?”  What makes me laugh the most these days?  My daughter’s witty comments and funny insights on the world.  To understand what makes some of the following Hannah-isms so absolutely hysterical, you have to understand a bit about my little girl.

hannienme2First off, Hannah is mini-me.  I don’t say that to be conceited– I actually think it’s more that I’m a giant version of her than she is a mini-version of me.  But we do look alike, we have the same facial expressions, the same goofy sense of humor and propensity toward being dramatic.  We both laugh at fart jokes, unlike the more modest males in the family.

hannahWhat differentiates us is that I’m a petite full-grown brunette, and she’s a little blondie who’s about a head shorter than most of her kindergarten peers.  Oh yeah, that and the fact that *technically* I’m still the adult and she’s the child, although I swear she teaches me more about the world than most adults I know.  And sometimes my goofy antics make people think I’m younger than I actually am anyway.

Hannie and I both can be alternately sweet and charming or stubborn and angry as all get-out.  Especially when we want something.  Maybe it’s the Taurus bull zodiac sign we share.  Who knows?  When we were getting ready for our day this morning and I giggled at something that Hannah did not think was funny, she growled at me.

I smiled and said, “That’s the little bull.”

Hannah replied, “Mommy.  That is *not* funny.  And I.  am not.  a bull.”

I tried to stifle my grin and get serious, but couldn’t resist muttering, “But your mommy is a bull.”

At which point she growled again and said, “You.  are *alone* in that.”

fancy bunTwo minutes later, she finished brushing her teeth, hopped down off her bathroom stool, hugged my leg really tight and said sweetly, “Mom, I wasn’t serious.  You are not alone.  I love you” with a big smile.  Then she danced off to put on her shoes.

Yup, that’s my little girl.  Content and patient, happily determined, a strong-willed little entity who only takes out those bull horns and charges when someone waves something red in front of her.  The rest of the time, she’s sitting with her mommy bull in a field of clover, actively enjoying the world and appreciating the sunshine.

hannie in sunglassesHannah began speaking early.  My mother says I was “born talking” but I didn’t quite get what she meant until I had Hannah.  When Hannie was one year old, I held out two hair ribbons and asked which one she wanted.  She looked them over, reached out her tiny hand, pointed and said, “I want da green bow.”  Five words, twelve months.  Not too shabby, eh?

Today for your reading pleasure and amusement, here are some of my favorite “Hannah-isms” from the past year. 

on arachnology & the internet:    “Spiders have automatic things like cobs & webs & connectors.  Connectors are things inside spiders that connect with the world wide web.  They are inside the spiders’ toes.”

on Christmas Eve traditions:    (looking thoughtful & concerned)  “Mommy, do you remember last Christmas Eve when we put the carrots on the plate?  (Yes.)  Those were for the reindeer.  But I don’t know why people let reindeer in the house– they make a lot of poop!”

on playing up personal attributes:    “Mommy, you know what’s great about me?”  (flashes charming smile, tosses hair over shoulder like a model)  “I can cough and sneeze and fart– all at the same time!”

Five year old *girl* on reactions to fear:    “Oh my gosh, Mommy, if I get scared on Halloween, I’m just going to scream like a little *boy*!!”

on dieting and accurate measurements:    (Hannie walks up behind me, ruler in hand)  “Mom, I just measured your butt and it’s 40%”  Shakes head disapprovingly and walks out of the room.

on breakfast variety:    “Hannah, do you want the usual ‘eggs made with love’ for breakfast?”  (thinks a minute)  “No, Mom.  Today I want eggs made with sweet love… and salt.”

strong HannieMe:  So Hannah, I’m doing this blog, and I’m writing about funny stuff.  Like when you sing funny words to songs.  And when you make butt jokes.  I love that.  He he.

Hannah:  Yeah.  Okay, that was weird, Mom.  Whatever.

Does everything happen for a reason? You decide.

… my second teacher tribute …

My friend Susan commented to me that she had read my last post, I was amazing, and I always made her cry.  After a snarky comment back about how it was my goal to cause her eye makeup to run down her face, I told her seriously how much I appreciated her encouragement and how I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for her.  This blog would not be “Autism Home Rescue,” my life and my children’s lives (my son’s life especially) would not be the same, and my perspective might be vastly different were it not for my friend Susan.  So for this post, I’ve decided to write my second teacher/mentor tribute about how Susan and I came to be in each other’s lives today.  Does everything happen for a reason?  You decide.

A wrong number phone call changed everything.

When Alex was a little over one year old, I decided I wanted to take him to a “mommy and me” music class.  He loved music (see “Music is a language all its own” to read about our first musical conversation) and I was committed to reaching out within the stay-at-home mom community and finding friends and activities for our new family.  I had browsed through some parent magazines, but wasn’t really making much of an effort to find a class when one afternoon the phone rang.

“Hello, this is Margie from Music Together.  I’m wondering if you and your daughter Olivia could switch from the Thursday class to the Tuesday class?”

Wrong number.  No daughter, no Olivia, no class registration.  I could have politely hung up.  But I didn’t.

“Well, you’ve got the wrong number, there’s no Olivia here.  But I have a 14 month old son, and we’re looking for a music class.  Can you tell me about it?”

She described the class, it was perfect.  Then she literally said (and no, I am not making this up) “It starts tomorrow morning, around the corner from you.  Why don’t you go?”

I got chills.  I looked up, scanning for some kind of angel keeping watch, and said “Okay.”

The next morning we arrived at Music Together.  It was wonderful, we had so much fun.  During that first ten week session we met Sabine and her mom Rose.  A year later little Sabine would help me understand more clearly than anyone else how to reach my son as he began to retreat into autism.  (Read the story of Sabine’s lesson here.)  A couple sessions after we met Rose and Sabine, Alex and I met Susan and her daughter Lauren.

From the get-go, Susan told me I looked familiar.  My response was, “Yeah, I get that a lot.”  One day she met me in the parking lot. 

“Seriously, you really do look familiar.  Are you sure we don’t know each other from somewhere?”

“Did you go to high school around here?  When did you graduate?”  I asked.

“Well, I graduated in 1986, but I didn’t go to high school in this district.  I did go to the local elementary school though.  I was vice president of the school in 5th grade.  See how far that got me?”  Susan looked around and laughed.

“Wait, wait.”  I gave her a quizzical look.  “You couldn’t have been vice president of the school in 5th grade.  Because I was secretary of the school in 5th grade and…  Susan B?”

“Cathy M?”  She replied.

Amazing.  I was reconnecting with a woman I hadn’t seen in over 20 years.  In a totally new world, we had everything in common again.  Each week we sang and danced with our kids, we shared family stories and parenting advice.  As time went on, things seemed okay on the surface, but underneath the happy-new-mom facade I tried so hard to maintain, the ground on which I was standing was beginning to crumble.  No one noticed.  Except for Susan.

Each week she quietly watched us.  Each week she saw the changes in Alex that I was trying hard to keep under wraps.  At Alex’s second birthday party (a music party of course), he did not respond to his name.  His grandmother clapped loud behind him to see if he would react.  He did not.  I snuck upstairs after the party and made a secret phone call to my aunt-in-law, who is a speech pathologist, to get some information on typical speech development and whether or not to have Alex evaluated for early intervention.

Each week the mothers, teacher, kids and I sang and danced.  Each week between classes I made calls to experts, set up evaluation times, tried to get my game face on, to tackle the puzzle, to figure out what the heck was attacking my precious little boy from the inside out.  Where was he going?  Why was he all of a sudden so strange?  Who knew the answers?  Who could help?

Alex’s increasing strange behavior and occasional outbursts were scary and embarrassing, especially since I had no way to explain them.  I felt terribly alone.  That session of music class there was a lullaby called “The River is Wide” of which the teacher was particularly fond.  I think it was adapted from an old hymn or spiritual poem.  The words were:

“The river is wide, I cannot cross over.  And neither have I wings to fly.  Give me a boat that can carry two.  And both shall row, my child and I.”

As I type this, I can hear the music teacher’s voice and the gentle sounds of the guitar.  Tears are slowly making their way down my cheeks.  I remember so clearly that song and my desperation.  I used to hold Alex on my lap at the lullaby time and rock him, trying to make sure he didn’t see me cry.  It was a sweet, beautiful song for naptime for everyone else.  But for me, it was my life.  Where was that boat?  How in the world would I cross?  All those two years I thought I would live in Italy, now I found myself almost to the shores of Holland without a guide.  I had no one, and no wings.

What I didn’t realize was that I was not alone in my struggle.  Susan was there, too.  She saw my tears and she knew why I cried them, even though the other moms didn’t.  Right around the time Alex was being diagnosed, Susan stopped me after class.  She asked me how I was and I started to cry right in front of her.  I couldn’t hide it. 

I choked, “They think it’s autism…  We had an evaluation…” 

Susan didn’t ask me about the doctor or the tests or the plan or anything anyone else had asked.  She simply put her arm around me and said:

“You remember my daughter Rachel, right?  She’s Lauren’s older sister, she’s been here a few times with us.”

I nodded.

“She’s beautiful, right?  She has fun in class, she participates and she responds.  She’s okay, right?”

I nodded again, tears still flowing on my cheeks.

“Rachel has autism.  And she is just like Alex.  I know who is going to help you.  There is a behavior specialist named Mari.  She works with Rachel.  She will work with Alex, and she will help, you’ll see.  It will be okay.”

I didn’t question, and I didn’t need to look up.  I felt that angel watching.  I simply said, “Okay.” 

What I needed more than anything right then was that promise that it would be okay.  There was a boat, there was a teacher, I would learn how to row.  The water was wide, but there were other people crossing too.  No one could tell me or make me believe.  But Susan could.  And more importantly, she did.  In a way that only my dear friend Susan could do, she explained how it was with Alex, how he was like her Rachel, and how the universe was going to bend to connect me with all the right people and knowledge I needed to help my son.

When I contacted Mari a short time later to ask her to begin a home program for Alex, neither Mari nor the agency for which she worked had an open space for him.  On the way to the agency interview (which I begged for anyhow), buoyed by the confidence I borrowed from Susan, I prayed.  Through those prayers and– I firmly believe– Susan’s sheer force of will, the universe bent and the connections were made.  As I walked into the agency– the best ABA therapy practice in our area at the time, the one with the 25% full recovery rate from autism and the most encouraging outcomes for kids on the spectrum– the director was just hanging up the phone. 

“Amazing.”  She said.  “I just had a cancellation.  We have one spot left.  Alex can have it.”

Does everything happen for a reason?

I believe so.  Maybe you don’t see the world that way.  Or maybe things happen differently in your life.  And that’s okay.  But for me, yes, I believe there are no coincidences.  Just as I had no explanation for what was happening to Alex when he was two years old, I have no explanation for the wrong number phone call that led me to a friend from grade school whose child was helped by the same woman who would become a true angel to my son.  Mari and Susan are now a forever part of my family.

I’ve never asked her, but when I think back, I wonder if Susan knew exactly the words to say that day in music class.  There certainly had been many, many people speaking to me about Alex and our family.  Much of the time I didn’t understand their words, it was like a different language.  Yet Susan’s reassurance and gentle guidance reached through my confusion and pain, and gave me hope when I most needed it.

Does everything happen for a reason?  You decide.

One hour in another time

I’m loving this “post-a-week” challenge so far.  It’s kinda like a high school essay contest without the grade anxiety and the dreams about not being allowed to graduate because you showed up late to your midterms in your underwear…  or.. .um.. .was that just me? …  *ahem*  … anyway…   The blog topic question proposed by WordPress today is:

If you had a time machine that only let you spend one hour in a different time, what date would you go to?

Maybe this question is easy to answer for some people.  But for me it opens up a world of ponderings.  There are so many hours I wonder about.  Some moments I would like to revisit because I want to re-experience them, some moments were crossroads where I am now curious about the consequences of the choices I made.  Some moments are old snapshots from family albums, a look at my family heritage.  And some moments are merely dreams of the future, patches of time I would love to peek at so I can add their insight to the inspirational pictures on my vision board.  Let’s set aside all the “Back to the Future” consequences and double people and all that, shall we?  Here are my top picks (so far):

Alex’s 30th birthday.  One hour with grown-up Alex to visit with the young man he has become.  To ask him questions, to enjoy his company.  Who knows if I will be around to see that day in real life?  It would be my honor to get a glimpse into his future.

The hour Hannah arrived in the world.  Just to be able to experience again the greatest moment of my life as a woman, giving birth to my baby girl.  That may seem strange to some, but I would relive it– labor pains with no drugs and all– in a heartbeat.

Baking bread with my mother when I was five.  I am like my mother.  I have her hands.  I have her expressions.  She says to me that the way I see Hannah is the way she sees me.  That just as Hannie is “my little Boo” so I am also her “Boo.”  I would be honored to witness my mother as a young woman at the beginning of her family life.  To appreciate all over again the blessing of being a loved and cherished child. 

September 1938.  I would like to meet Pauline, my paternal grandmother whom I never knew.  Pauline died when my father was Alex’s age.  In September 1938 she would have been near age 25, immersed in her teaching career and surrounded by family in her small town community.   She would be five years away from having my dad, 15 years away from her untimely death from cancer, probably hopeful for the future and motivated enough to change the world for the better.  I want to know what she’d tell me about life.

The day my grandparents met and/or fell in love.  My maternal grandfather, with whom I was very close, always told a story about how he went to a high school concert on a date with another girl, saw my grandmother in the choir and immediately fell in love.  My Grandpa was well-loved by everyone (especially the ladies), always a gentleman, and the spitting image of Santa Claus when he was older.  My Grandma got Alzheimer’s at a young age, so by the time I was old enough to know her, she wasn’t really the person she had been most of her life.  I want to see what their lives were like, who my Grandma really was and how charming and/or typical, funny or quirky my Grandpa was when he swept her off her feet.

My last birthday.  Okay, I admit it.  Sometimes I read the last chapter first.  And yes, I have been known to peek at presents before Christmas.  But come on, aren’t we all a little curious about how it all goes in life and what’s around the corner for us?  Notice, I didn’t say “the day I die.”  I’m not that morbid.  I kinda hope my final birthday celebration will be a huge party with a hundred friends and relatives dancing and eating chocolate cake. 

There are other days of course.  Some single moments, an hour at a time, that I revisit from time to time in my head.  Or daydream about when I am quiet and alone with my thoughts.  I also have my hopes for the future tacked up on a little mental vision board.  They all stitch together into one big quilt.  And when I’m centered and happy, I can wrap that around me and be warm and comforted while I remain firmly rooted right here, right now, in the present.

Today’s Gratitude List

 

Gratitude girl

 Today I am grateful for:

  • Mocha cappuccinos from the Passero’s coffee shop at work
  • The fact that the Passero’s folks “get me” & they serve me anyway (even though I told them this morning that sooner or later I would have to get healthy & break off this relationship– despite the fact that they *did* leave their mug at my house…)
  • Hannah’s stuffed webkins shark (“Sharkey”) who now resides with me on my desk at work.  A sweet reminder of the healing power of soft, furry animals to relieve stress.  Also doubles as a makeshift football to throw across the aisle at my new cubemate when things get slow.  Which brings me to my last item for the morning…
  • New work colleagues– who also “get me” and are witty conversationalists and active listeners.  Obviously the “getting me” part is big in my book.  But I’m also just grateful for the fun interactions & shared jokes.  It reminds me that even though I am a (semi) grown-up, my day can still include fun. 

 What are you grateful for?  Write it down & message me!

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